When it comes to water, dog owners often assume that their dog is safe because he automatically knows how to swim. This is dangerously untrue. While many dogs enjoy water, others hate it. It's also important to remember that not all breeds are meant to swim. According to Pet Health Network, dogs fall into three categories: dogs who are natural swimmers, those who can be taught to swim, and those who aren't built to survive in water. Those with short muzzles and a large chest to hindquarters ratio are especially inept in the water. The bulldog is a prime example.
Your Dog Depends On You
When you decide to take your dog for a swim, she can't say no, put on her own life jacket, or take lessons in advance. She must rely on you to keep her safe. The best way to ensure your dog's water safety this summer and beyond is to start small. Accompany your dog into water that is no more than a few feet deep and observe how well she handles it. If she automatically starts paddling, that is a good sign. However, you should not be more than an arm's length away in case she does start sinking.
You can gradually increase the time in the water and distance away from your dog, but don't take your eyes off him. Even when you feel comfortable that your dog knows how to swim, never leave him unattended in or near the water. He could become overstimulated by the sight of a bird or by the noise of children and literally get in over his head. Teach him to obey your commands when you say that it's time to get out of the water and go home. He also should not enter the water unless you have given him the okay to do so.
Many dogs love to join their families for a boat ride. Unfortunately, the myth that dogs can always swim causes some people to forget to put a life jacket on their pet. To get your dog accustomed to wearing a safety vest, be sure to put it on before you even reach the dock or board the boat. That way she will come to accept it as part of the normal routine. In the rare event that your dog goes overboard, use a floatation device to pull her back in rather than jumping in the water yourself.
Microchipping your pet is always a good idea, but it's especially important if you plan to do a lot of swimming. This increases the chances of reuniting with your dog if he does get away from you. Lastly, plan ahead for seasickness and bathroom issues aboard the boat. You will probably have to train your dog in advance that it is okay to relieve himself in an area of the boat that you determine. Putting down a piece of astro turf or a section of sod works well for many people who are both dog and boat owners.
The staff of both Grantsburg Animal Hospital and Wild River Veterinary Clinic hope you and your dog have a safe and fun summer. Please schedule an appointment to see us if you have any concerns about your dog's health this summer. If you experience an after-hours emergency, please call 1-800-924-0588.
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